Red Dwarf: Six smegging ridiculous gadgets

To celebrate the triumphant return of Lister and co, we bring you the greatest gadgets and top technologies from the Red Dwarf universe.

Nate Lanxon Special to CNET News
4 min read

Find your nearest red-alert bulb and get flashing: Red Dwarf triumphantly returns to British TV tonight -- coming out of stasis for a second set of new episodes on Dave.

To celebrate, we've cleared the smeg out of our brains and thought back over two decades of Dwarfing, to bring you a collection of the greatest gadgets and top technologies from the Red Dwarf universe. And what's more, we'll show you just how far we have to go by comparing their real-world counterparts in use today.

1: The DNA Modifier

The Cat accidentally once turned Lister into a chicken using a DNA modifier, before being turned into a hamster. This remarkable machine could turn any living thing into any other by rewriting its DNA.

Real life: The ability to transform your friends into poultry may, to most, seem but a dream. And indeed, turning criminals into food for the hungry seems like a smashing way to combat crime, global famine and overpopulation in one fell swoop. But today, the closest we can get is genetically modified food, and the cloning of sundry mammals.

Small steps, though, and before you know it -- bam! -- it'll be 3 million years in the future, and domestic arguments are solved by turning loved ones into livestock. Happy times await.

2: Artificial Reality

The insanely popular AR game Better Than Life proved horribly addictive to the Red Dwarf crew. Legion's Cyber Park also allowed visitors to his complex to "indulge in any fantasy they wish, with any persons they desire". Unsurprisingly, sex with celebrities was a popular choice.

Real life: In real life we're given fewer options -- if you want to sleep with a famous person, you need to ask one nicely, or become one and ask your partner what it's like. But emotive and deeply involving online games are not hard to come by.

True, the closest to doing the dirty with a sleb in World of Warcraft is plunging your Malevolent Gladiator's Greatsword into a level 90 panda. But give it a few hundred years and you'll be virtually bedding your dream A-lister before you can say "perverted".

3: Escort Boots

Escort boots were invented in the Red Dwarf world to take you to a set destination via a pre-programmed route -- you put on the shoes, and the shoes walked you to your cell. Convicts were popular wearers of the would-be 'Shoe Chauffeurs', because they're always such devils for running off and causing new and inventive kinds of hell.

Real life: We don't yet have mechanical shoes -- automated or otherwise -- but the closest is probably the increasingly awesome bionic limbs that help amputees restore their mobility. Some criminals are fitted with GPS tagging devices to ensure they're not going anywhere they shouldn't. Rest assured: it'll be tazer-equipped GPS tagging systems next.

4: Personality Disks

As good as Apple's Time Machine backup application is, it hasn't yet managed to store our souls. On Red Dwarf however, personality disks could. They would store an individual's persona, allowing you to either recreate a deceased loved one as a living hologram, or a person of historical significance for parties, such as a hilarious TV weather girl or a controversial guest speaker such as Adolf Hitler.

Real life: Today, we have something reasonably similar. It has personality records of 1 billion individuals, in excruciating detail. A person's image, life history, hobbies and interactions with friends and co-workers can be downloaded to disk, and preserved for the future. It may not (yet) be compatible with holographic people projectors, but give Facebook time and we're sure it'll get there.

5: The Psi-Scan

Kryten's Psi-Scan Model 345 out-performed the 346 in eight out of nine bench tests. As he correctly pointed out, it's no wonder it was voted 'Psi-Scan of the Year, Best Budget Model' three years running. It could do almost anything -- detect nearby lifeforms, or scan the air for lethal toxins. If something needed to be done, chances are the Psi-Scan would help you out.

Real life: What it lacked was an app store. The iPhone, however, does not, and is the 21st-century equivalent of Kryten's find-stuff-around-you thingamy. Apps such as Decibel will monitor the sound pressure around you to detect if you and your fellow Dwarfers are in danger of hearing loss, and AroundMe will scan your current locations for local amenities, such as bars and cinemas.

The iPhone is yet to be able to detect lethal levels of radiation, for which you'll still need a Psi-Scan. Or until they're invented, a Geiger counter.

6: Anti-matter Chopsticks

24th-century Mimosian cuisine was (or should that be 'will be'?) best enjoyed with Mimosian anti-matter chopsticks. With the recession but a distant 21st-century anecdote to the future Dwarfers, science turned its attention to the bigger issues of the day: eating food without having to touch it. 

The answer was a chopstick that manipulated the very fabric of the universe itself. It was able to move food from plate to mouth, without the wretched concern of swallowing bacteria from the tables of unusual strangers whose faces were built out of those of your friends.

Real life: Today's equivalent? The chopstick. Boring but functional, the chopstick has been successfully ferrying food to mouths for thousands of years.

7: Your suggestion

Reckon we missed a gadget out? Have your say in the comments below, or over on our Facebook page, and don't miss Red Dwarf tonight on Dave. Fingers -- human, feline, android or holographic -- crossed that it doesn't suck.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article we published years ago, when Red Dwarf first had new shows on Dave. We even changed the WoW loot. No, Nate doesn't work here any more.